When multinational restaurant chains want to gain market share and a strong customer base in new locations, they engage in product localization to accommodate local tastes. But in the Mall of India, in central New Delhi, fast food chains like McDonald’s, KFC, and Taco Bell are going one step further: creating an open and inclusive workplace to attract India’s largest overlooked resource.
Women account for just 14% of all domestic
fast food employees, as traditional culture dictates the majority (63% of all working women) work on farms or stay home to maintain their households. The traditional female role creates an obstacle for change and empowerment, as women have limited access to the necessary resources to pursue alternative options, like equal access to technology and education. When U.S. fast food companies like Yum! Brands and McDonald’s entered the Indian market a few years ago, they were confronted with the unique cultural challenge of attracting female employees, while not forcing them to compromise their beliefs and familial expectations.
The motivation to hire more women comes from two places. First, as top executives noted, Indian women are seen by their community members as more hygienic, loyal, and friendly, making them extremely desirable employees with lower turnover rates. Second, diversity initiatives drive innovation, economic growth, and societal improvement. A product of globalization, corporations are now expected to act outside of the traditional business model and invest in multiple stakeholders.
McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Domino’s, Burger King, and Pizza Hut are implementing programs and policies specific to their Indian restaurants to attract more female employees and new customers, and they’re getting it right. Burger King offers self-defense classes. Domino’s provides gender sensitization programs. McDonald’s appoints confidants at each location to allow women to discuss topics and issues they otherwise cannot. Yum! Brands offers manager mentorship programs to women and pays recruiters higher commissions for hiring female candidates. “When families visit and see women supervising the store, they will feel emboldened to let their own daughters work,” said Aman Lal, Yum’s HR head in India.
KFC employee Chanchal Karhana’s mother wouldn’t even step inside where she worked because it serves meat. She held the fear most families feel when their daughters seek employment: that this new job will corrupt them. “She saw other women working, so she felt assured it was a safe place,” said the 21-year-old employee.
By understanding the concerns of families, for instance tweaking its uniforms to mirror more traditional dress of women and flexible hours for new mothers, these multinational corporations are setting a progressive precedent. When companies invest in the comfort and happiness of employees, they benefit locally and internationally, as consumers historically favor companies who promote impactful social responsibility programs.
Aptly put by American activist Marian Wright Edelman, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” The traditional hierarchical structure of Indian society makes it difficult for women to hold entry level jobs outside of the household, much less take on a management role. Providing inclusive and mindful employment for women positions international companies as pioneers of change for a stronger, more diverse global workforce. These fast food chains understand the social interdependence of Indian families, and the necessity of an open and welcoming workplace. These American franchises are creating as a strong precedent for future workplaces, and their success is the world’s lesson.